The shooting spree that claimed four young lives in the remote town of La Loche, Sask., last Friday is over, but some residents of the northern community are not convinced that the danger to the area’s children has passed.
On Monday, parents gathered at a school in the nearby reserve of Clearwater River Dene Nation, where events marking the shooting shifted following vigils in La Loche over the weekend.
There the principal of the Clearwater River Dene School, which is less than a 10-minute drive from the La Loche Community School where last week’s bloodshed culminated, urged parents to be vigilant in the wake of the attack.
“Kids that are suicidal are going to be more vulnerable. And the copy cat type of people are going to be more susceptible to act out in violence,” Mark Klein told the gathering of about 60 people, some of whose children go to school in La Loche.
The Clearwater school has been closed since the shooting, although its gym was open on Monday afternoon to let kids play basketball. Klein said he is hoping to get an RCMP officer posted to the school when it reopens, sometime after the last funeral service for the shooting victims takes place later this week.
But he also devised a softer approach to ensuring the students feel safe. He asked parents to write positive messages on Post-it notes and stick them around the school, so that they’ll be waiting when the students return.
The Post-its are a small gesture, but some parents said they hoped they would help their kids heal and stave off the social alienation that some in La Loche believe may have been a factor in the horrific shooting. The 17-year-old arrested for the crime had reportedly been relentlessly teased about having large ears.
Rana Janvier was one of the parents who walked through the halls posting messages such as “We Love You” and “You Are Unique” on the lockers and doors. She said she had eight children, and one of her daughters was friends with 17-year-old Dayne Fontaine, who was murdered on Friday along with his 13-year-old brother Drayden. Tutor Marie Janvier, 23, and teacher Adam Wood, 35, were also killed, and seven others wounded.
“I keep asking her how’s she’s doing, she keeps saying, I’m OK, I’m OK.” Janvier said. “I know she’s not.” She said she hoped the Post-it notes would help the kids “have a stronger mind when they enter the school again.”
Janvier said she always told her children not to bully other kids because of the emotional scars it can leave on young people. “You need to know you can’t do that to other kids,” she said.
Sharon Kennedy, a teacher at the school whose daughter is also a student, said that bullying can lead to drug and alcohol addiction “because kids who are being bullied are going to try to find a way to cope with what they’re going through.”
She was writing Bible passages on the sticky notes. “I thought this was a wonderful way of giving the kids an atmosphere of hope and love,” she said.